Christmas 2014. A hobby was born. Little did I know that a very generous Christmas present would result in hours and hours of my life committed to the cut, the groove and the stitch.
I keep half a cow in my room. Okay granted, it’s just its skin and it’s in the form of a beautiful, natural tanned and oiled hide. But you know how big half a cow is? Big enough for purses, laptop sleeves, clutches, journals and much more. Which is exactly what I’m transforming Mrs. Cow into.
I’m in love with leather. There, I said it.
I’m spending way too much time pinning ideas on my leather board, which currently has 400 projects waiting to be made. You won’t find many tutorials or patterns on there, because I always prefer to design my own pattern. You know, being picky and opinionated about everything and all that.
So I stare at existing products until I’ve figured out what it is I like, and how they did it. Combine that process from multiple products and you have your own, personalized design. It’s surprising how many leather products have a very simple design. It’s not crazy colors or patterns, button or zippers, layers and shapes that makes the product interesting. The material is rich enough, it doesn’t need much else.
But just like any craft – simplicity requires excellence. Every details counts. So I sketch, measure, calculate, re-sketch, make paper samples and measure again.
Leather teaches me a new kind of creative process. I’ve been working with fabric, paper and clay for years, and my creative motto had always been:
“Just do it and see how it turns out. Any mistakes can be fixed, or will be those happy accidents that actually add character.”
Sometimes it worked, other times I utterly failed. But this motto mostly caused me to waste so much time on problems that could have been avoided in the first place.
Leather is different. It is very unforgiving. One cut, and your hide is committed to your design. One stitch and you have set your course. There is no bending to make things fit better, no erasing and no adding new material to fill in a gap. Whatever you do, it’s there and it will be there for years to come.
That, combined with the feel and smell of a quality (and expensive) material beneath your fingers, slows me down. I take the time to measure, and measure again, and try it out, fix any mistakes, measure again and again and again. The biggest creative process happens before my knife ever touches the hide.
Measure before you cut. // A tote is probably the easiest design for a bag, yet excellence is in the details. That's why I spent hours drawing, measuring and making paper stencils to design the perfect side-to-bottom closure. Now it's time to cut and stitch this beautiful hide. #leathercraft #leathertote #bagmaking #leather #measure #creativeprocess #cutandstitch
Even after the cut, the process still crawls forward in a slow and thoughtful pace. Unlike fabric, you can’t just punch your needle through and be done. It takes four steps per stitch before you even pick up the needle.
Once you’re finally ready to stitch, it truly is one step at the time. I do everything by hand, so I see every little dent and scratch of the leather while taking the slow journey with the needle. Twice. Back and Forth. All sides.
It refreshingly slow. It’s almost therapeutic. My life tends to be very fast-paced and my mind always goes a 100mph. Giving just one activity your undivided attention is like a breath of fresh air. It’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with leather. It slows me down. It reduces my thoughts to one thing. Cut. Groove. Stitch.
"Isn't there a machine that can do that?" Yes. Yes there is. But there's something glorious about slowing down to the pace of one stitch at the time. Then it's no longer yet another leather tote. It's my carefully invested time embodied in a piece of skin. #leathercraft #leather #creativeprocess #cutandstitch #handstitching #leathertote #slowliving
Another thing I love about hand-stitching my leather projects is that I’m mobile. I can grab my leather-tote-to-be when I’m sitting on the couch at home, or I can take it with me on a creative get-away and work in a coffee shop.
Obviously, a slow process takes time. Time that I don’t necessarily always set aside. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that it took me about seven months to finish this leather tote. Seven months. (I’m definitely too embarrassed to add that until this day, I still haven’t attached the inside pockets. Ah, who needs to find their keys or phone anyway, right?)
Let’s just say this sobering timeline was a good reminder that I need to make more time for my creative endeavors.
And here it is. My own, hand-stitched leather tote. I’m head over heels. Putting so much attention, love and time into something really makes it extra special.
And “Love your bag, where did you get it?”quickly becomes your favorite question. 😉
From a cow hide and a few sketches to a custom leather tote. It took me a couple of months, but it.is.finished. My own design, hand stitched and with those scars and marks that made me first fall in love with genuine leather. Proud! #endresult #creativeprocess #leather #leathertote #leathercraft #craftmanship #handmade #handstitched #ootd
In my next Leather Craft post, I’ll share about my very first leather project and walk you through the steps of hand-stitching leather.
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